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4.7 out of 5 stars
North By Northwest [Blu-ray] [1959] [Region Free]
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111 of 118 people found the following review helpful

As you watch the credits of Hitch's 1959 masterpiece "North By Northwest" roll up on the screen in all their resplendent VistaVision Technicolor glory - the shiny, cold and aloof glass panelling of a New York skyscraper acts as their backdrop.

It's a brilliant touch - because combined with Bernard Herrmann's staccato score - it ratchets up the tension - and also subliminally suggests to the viewer that some poor John Doe is about to get rightly and royally screwed by big business and big Government - or both. And of course - mistaken for a UN diplomat called George Caplin - our hapless hero George Thornhill (played by Cary Grant) - does just that. Then when the opening credits end and Cary exits the lift with his secretary (Doreen Lang) all suited-n-booted and looking dapper enough to lick - another element kicks in - the extraordinary picture quality...

State-of-the art frame-by-frame Lowry Digital restoration has taken place here and the result is that the print is just BEAUTIFUL. I raved in a UK Listmania list some 3 years ago about how good the DVD looked - well this BLU RAY is way better - and at times just jaw-dropping to look at. Icing on the cake is that this 50th Anniversary BLU RAY reissue (Nov 2009) also adds on some superlative new features which are just as good as the film itself.

Here's the full list:
1. Commentary by Ernest Lehman (Original Script-Writer)
2. New 2009 Documentary "The Master's Touch: Hitchcock's Signature Style"
(over 50 minutes - featuring comments from directors Martin Scorsese, Curtis Hanson, Frances Lawrence, Guillermo del Toro and many more)
3. Previously seen but superlative feature-length profile "Cary Grant: A Class Apart" (over 1 and a half hours)
4. New 2009 feature called "North By Northwest: One For The Ages" examining the movies innovations and influences
5. Feature called "The Making Of North By Northwest" from 2000 hosted by Eva Marie Saint
6. Music Only Audio Track
7. Stills Gallery
8. Theatrical Trailers & TV Spots
9. Internet link to Warner Brothers

A whole bunch of things combine to make NBN work - a great story by Ernest Lehman, superb night and day locations, immaculate period clothes, the bulbous gas-guzzling cars, the art-deco buildings, the interiors of wealthy homes and the deeply luxurious dining cars of long-distance 1950's trains. And to top all of that, you get genuine old-school Hollywood star power in the form of James Mason, Martin Landau, Leo Carroll and the luminous love interest Eva Marie Saint. And of course the effortlessly suave and charming Cary Grant - arguably the best leading man Tinseltown ever produced. Throw in the tension, wit and camera angles of Hitchcock at the helm - and you're on a winner.

But your eyes keep coming back to how this BLU RAY shines. There are so many little scenes that now look sumptuous - Alfred missing the bus just at the end of the opening credits in his famous cameo scene - the garish colours of Fifties New York taxis, the marble of the hotel lobby Cary is meeting clients in. Then there's the Townsend home and gardens as the villains motor up the gravel driveway to the front door, the three dapper suits of the boys as they parry in the library room inside (Mason, Landau and Grant) and the clarity of the night scene where they put a drunk Cary in a stolen car and try to drive him off a cliff. Further on there's the colour of the fields in the legendary crop-duster scene, hanging off the Mount Rushmore monument by your fingernails - even Eva Saint Marie's beautiful red dress in the hotel room as she stands by the door while Cary showers in the bathroom... I could go on. If I was to nitpick - some scenes quite deliberately have Grant and Saint with an almost halo-like shine around them (soft focus to make them look better) and can at times make the print look just a teeny bit soft. But other than that - this is exemplary stuff and a jewel in Warners Brothers considerable filmic Crown.

Up there with "The Italian Job", "Zulu", "Goldfinger", "Saturday Night, Sunday Morning", "The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner", "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang", "The African Queen", "To Catch A Thief" and "Back To The Future" in terms of top quality restoration (see my reviews for each) - "North By Northwest" is a triumph on BLU RAY. And the superb additional extras only make you feel that Warners are to be praised for a job well done.

As to which release to buy on BLU RAY - (as of April 2014) there are a number of releases for UK fans:

1. The Standard UK release of 2009 (50th Anniversary Edition cover) is in a simple clipcase with no booklet (Amazon Reference B002CYIR5W)
2. The UK 2013 Steelbook Reissue Version uses the old Poster artwork on the front and has no booklet either (Amazon UK reference B00A6UH9PS)
3. The American DIGIBOOK release of 2009 (50th Anniversary Edition cover) on Warner Brothers however has a Hardback Sleeve and a beautiful 46-page booklet attached inside. It's also Region Free so will play on all machines. If you've the few quid - opt for this - it often retails for around a ten spot and is gorgeous to look at and own (Amazon UK reference B0017HMF6W).

PS: For anyone interested (as I said above) - the American NBN is part of the following list of American DIGIBOOK BLU RAY titles on Warner Brothers. Most are REGION FREE and each has a beautiful booklet - which few if any of the UK versions have:

All The President's Men (1976)
Amadeus (1984)
Batman (1989)
The Big Parade (1925)
Blade Runner (1982)
Bonnie And Clyde (1967)1975)
Cabaret (1972)
Camelot (1967)
Casablanca (1942)
Chariots Of Fire (1981)
Citizen Kane (1941)
Clash Of The Titans (1981)
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
The Color Purple (1985)
Deliverance (1972)
Dirty Harry (1971)
Doctor Zhizago (1965)
Driving Miss Daisy (1989)
East Of Eden (1953)
Elvis On Tour (1972)
Empire Of The Sun (1987)
The Exorcist (1973)
Falling Down (1993)
Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Gettysburg (1993)
Giant (1956)
Goodfellows (1990)
Gods And Generals (2003)
The Green Mile (1999)
Guys And Dolls (1955)
Hamlet [Kenneth Branagh Version] (1996)
Hans Christian Andersen (1952)
How The West Was Won (1962
Jaws (1975)
The Jazz Singer (1927)
JFK (1991)
The Killing Fields (1984)
King Kong (1933 Original)
Malcolm X (1992)
The Man Who Would Be King (1975)
The Matrix (1999)
Meet me In St. Louis (1944)
Midnight Express (1978)
Mutiny On The Bounty (1935)
Natural Born Killers (1994)
North By Nothwest (1959)
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)
Papillon (1973) - SEE REVIEW
Poltergeist (1982)
Rebel Without A Cause (1955)
The Right Stuff (1983)
Rocky (1976)
Se7en (1995)
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Silverado (1985)
The Sorcerer (1977)
A Star Is Born (1954 Original)
A Star Is Born (1976 Remake)
A Streetcare Named Desire (1951)
300 (2007)
The Tuskegee Airmen (1995)
Unforgiven (1992)
What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? (1962)
Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (1971)
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Made 3 years before James Bond made spy movies extremely popular, North by Northwest sometimes comes across as a bit of a caper instead of something more serious, but it has enough going on to keep you interested, even over 136 minutes, a running time few Bond films have exceeded.

Cary Grant is Roger Thornhill, an NY adman who lives a fast and loose lifestyle. When he's mistaken for an enigmatic spy called George Kaplan his is hurled into a partially confusing plot involving cold war traitors, secret agents and double agents. Thornhill travels up and down and across the country trying to outwit his pursuers and find out what the hell is going on, all while romancing Eva Marie Saint, with Bernard Herrmann boisterous score propelling him along.

It's another one of Hitchcock's 'wrong man' thrillers, and probably the best (however, I do rate Saboteur highly). But it IS still a bit overrated. It's shot very well, in many different locations, and there's little, if anything, to dislike about it. But like many early Bond movies there are many scenes where you can easily tell that the characters are just walking on a treadmill with a rear-projection behind them instead of physically being in actual locations. It doesn't spoil anything, though it is always noticeable.

The Blu Ray looks absolutely stunning in 1.78:1 1080p, with hardly a scratch or a speck of dust to mar the presentation. Warner did an amazing job restoring this film, which looks just as good, if not better, than many modern films on the format. The sound Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and there are numerous extras. Definitely worth getting.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 4 February 2013
I really do like a steelbook and these commemorative releases from Warners are a delight. On review here we have, arguably, one of the greatest movies of all time from one of the greatest directors of all time, Alfred Hitchcock.

North by Northwest stars Carey Grant as Roger Thornhill who gets caught up in a duplicitous game of cat and mouse when he is mistakenly identified as one George Kaplan, a secret agent. Pursued across country on a train, fired upon by a deadly crop duster in a classic scene and finally an epic endgame atop Mount Rushmore Grant is ably backed up by a stellar cast including Eve Marie Saint and a deliciously wicked James Mason. With a score by Bernard Herrmann this sits easily in the top tier of the Masters films and is one to watch again and again.

The picture quality here is just stunning! With a beautifully remastered picture North by Northwest has never looked as vibrant to this reviewers eyes. Everything just looks so detailed, sharp and solid with the proper level of film grain still present its just a joy to behold. Its honestly like seeing the film for the first time!

The extras are almost as good as the film itself with a lovely commentary from the screenwriter Ernest Lehman, which Ive now listened to twice haha, a wonderful and insightful documentary on Carey Grant which is almost worth the price of admission alone, a featurette called The Masters Touch about the filmmaking style of Hitchcock, a making of North by Northwest feature and a few other bits and bobs.

Really a MUST OWN movie so if you dont have it get it. And if you can get this steelbook edition all the better because its a really lovely addition to anyones collection.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Hitchcock"s films were made for their time and hugely successful they were too.Only the very great directors can claim that their works can still generate tension , thrills and quality decades later(were they still alive). Hitch is in that select band.
Music,screenplay,production,acting and all crafts brought together by the man still combine today to give such excellent enterainment.
Certain words or phrases used date the film i.e. "making love" and "gay" (which are used in a different context today), but thats nit-picking: this film stands up to the test of time remarkably well.
The DVD includes plenty of extras for enthusiasts such as audio commentary,music tracks and behind-the-scenes documentary with comments by the actors etc. Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 4 January 2010
There's not much point in commenting on this 50 year old classic except to say that it may be Cary Grant's finest hour (what! no Oscar again?), is certainly one of Alfred Hitchcock's finest efforts, and obviously cinematic perfection from the moment Saul Bass's superb title sequence hits the screen right through to the thrilling Mount Rushmore finale.

What's more important is how good a job Warner Brothers have done in bringing Hitchcock to Blu-Ray for the first time, and I can happily report that this first of hopefully many Hitchcock releases is very satisfying indeed.

There's a stack of new docs and features for a start off. The full length Cary Grant Biography is the best I've ever seen, and this alone makes the disk essential for any fan. There's also two other new (and again quite lengthy) docs discussing the film's influence and Hitchcock's career, with a fair bit of input from some current directors (although apart from William Friedkin and Guillermo del Toro they're a little "B" list). For completion, the disk also includes the Eva Marie Saint hosted "making of" from the original DVD release (actually the second best of the docs after the Cary Grant Bio). That was enough to keep me occupied for a whole afternoon (I've not heard the commentaries yet).

There appears to be a lot of enthusiasm for the image quality in the other reviews here, and rightly so, but I believe it to be merely excellent rather than perfect. Although it is generally beautifully rendered, with plenty of detail, gorgeous colour and a pleasing level of grain, I think it may be a little too dark, and often appears inconsistent; check out the shooting at the Mount Rushmore restaurant, where the film cuts to Martin Landau peering over the shoulders of some bystanders to confirm Thornhill is dead - there is a very obvious drop in quality, as if another, less pristine film element had been used. It also suffers a little from Hitchcock's use of soft-focus (normally for Grant's close-ups). This is nit-picking, but I just want to make it clear that in my opinion, North by Northwest doesn't quite attain the highest standards of image quality enjoyed by other classic BRD releases such as Dr No, Zulu or The Italian Job.

Sound quality is also very high, although I could not discern that much of an improvement over the excellent DVD version. It's a little quiet though, and I found myself pumping the volume up rather higher than I would normally expect. There's not that much going on in the rears for most of the film (apart from the crop-sprayer scene), but that's fine - it was originally shot in mono of course.

In conclusion, this disk is well worth full marks, and if you love the film (or Gary Grant), you are going to want to upgrade from the DVD. Roll on Vertigo...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 29 October 2008
Roger Thornhill (Grant) is mistaken for another man by a group of foreign spies and after a few unfortunate events, finds himself on the run.

North by Northwest is recognized as one of Alfred Hitchcock's finest films and with the adrenaline soaked narrative and a great central performance it is easy to see why.

Cary Grant (Charade) delivers a sensational portrayal of advertising executive Roger Thornhill, a simple man who is mistaken for someone else. Thornhill is wonderfully sarcastic, very charismatic and plaudits must go to Grant who has created an original hero, an ordinary man who turns himself into an action hero within a short space of time in Alfred Hitchcock's wonderfully realistic world.

Hitchcock's action styled direction is picture perfect for this fast moving thriller. The British director cements the realism down to the ground with his cutting edge close shots and the fast sweeping direction, most noticeable in the landmark plane scene in the fields.

It is easy to overdo action in modern day films and Hitchcock has expertly managed to balance the action alongside the everyday events of the protagonists.

This film is close to resembling a Bond styled genre, though obviously was made before Bond films were. The cocky yet sophisticated Thornhill is well directed by Hitchcock to create the ultimate action hero in a sharply written narrative that is more realistic and entertaining than the Bond spy genre.

The reason this 1959 thriller works is down to all the genres it covers.
Through Hitchcock's action and realistic direction, viewers are thrust into action sequences, romantic moments and crime sequences to, providing viewers with the ultimate adventure. Covering different genres is not a stroll in the park as recent films show and can be appreciated here with Hitchcock's wonderful balance.

The balance of the action and romantic genres works well with the whole mystery concept of what is happening to the central character.

The settings are well executed and further add to the intensity of the plot, particularly the field and the climax on Mount Rushmore.

North by Northwest is a top notch action thriller, made so by Hitchcock's direction, great writing and a fine central character.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 19 April 2005
It is difficult to speak of North by Northwest without lapsing into the sort of superlatives that inevitably render critical throught and writing difficult. To begin with the cast: a young Martin Landau, feline and sinister, the tough and intelligent performance of Eva Marie Saint, the almost hypnotic intensity of James Mason and, above all, the charming, vulnerable, exciting and, very very funny, Cary Grant in perhaps his best performance. Has there ever been a better cast, delivering a better set of generous and unselfconscious performances? Its tough to think of a better example. And there's the taut and funny script of Lehmann and Hitchcock's direction which is not only interesting but time and time again genuinely arresting (think of the sudden overhead shot of Grant fleeing the UN building like a mouse in a maze). I would say, "superlatives aside", but how does one put superlative aside when one thinks of such a film? Certainly not in 1000 words or less! Just trust me on this one and rent it, will you? I have to get back to work and I want to do it knowing that I've made you happy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 10 April 2012
You don't have to be a big fan of the film to savour this sumptuous Blu-Ray release! I can't add any Comment to the film that already hasn't been said, but the remastering of it's print onto High Definition is simply craftmanship... Even the back projection seems to have been colour corrected and brightened to beautifully blend in and so add an almost surreal art-like quality to the film. Perhaps the way it was always intended? The Blu-Ray release is also adorned with many interesting extra's to satisfy any Cary Grant or Hitchcock fan alike. And even though I wasn't born when the film was originally made, I've always liked it. However, after this Blu-Ray release I love it. Simply because you also get to notice and stare into the well-defined faces of even the background characters. All in all, high Definition must surely offer the closet way to step back in time! So go on--do yourself a favour and actually feel like you're living the late 1950's via this enjoyable romp and caper!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 9 March 2007
Unarguably one of the most terrific movies to ever hit the screens. With an absolutely superb script and compelling cinematography, it sucks you in and keeps you thinking and guessing about what's going on and how it's all going to pan out. The story development is that good, for it hits a few natural chords, such as the confusion between a spy of many identities and a random man. How can that random man prove that he is not the spy of many identities that the others have mistaken him for? There is no way out of this dragnet once it sets around you, as Roger O. Thornhill suddenly finds out. And the more he tries to get out, the deeper he gets entangled. Naturally. And the avalanche gathers more snow as it goes along in true Hitchcock pace.

This film benefits from a haunting musical score, which has obviously provided considerable inspiration to Phillip Glass's musical style. The cinematography and the wide-angle and panoramic shots have also been influential to Godfrey Reggio's Koyaanisqatsi and Powaqqatsi documentaries. It enjoys some of the most memorable scenes in cinema history, such as the chase scene on the faces of the presidents at Mount Rushmore, which is not short of metaphor or cheeky humour. British Hitchcock humour. There's plenty of it, and it is very well distributed and absolutely wicked. Just take a look at the way Roger O. Thornhill, or ROT in acronym form (a faceless and arrogant advertising executive) has to weave himself through a big mess, where his false identity sticks on him like a fatal disease. Or how about the last scene where the train rams its way into the tunnel just as Mr and Mrs Thornhill are about to make love... This is a great film in its entirety and provides one helluva ride. Truly remarkable!!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
The great opening shot with lines moving on screen that turn into a great cold glass covered building, over which the recurring theme music booms. We know we are in for a great thrill ride.

Arguably Hitchcock's most accessible film is an unabashed thriller made to entertain from the opening shot. Cary Grant is Roger Thornhill, hedonistic New York executive, who is living the good life and he knows it. Life is a game and he plays it well. However things start to go wrong when he is accidentally identified as a Government agent named George Kaplan. The bad guys (James Mason and co) want him dead.

What follows is tremendous fun; Grant and Mason are just superb whilst Hitchcock piles on the tension at every opportunity. Along the way Thornhill is abducted, framed for murder and chased by a crop duster, ending up at Mount Rushmore in a scene most people will recognise.

Eve St Marie as the love interest is very good indeed and is not just eye candy for the average 1950's audiences. She has a proper role to play and she does so with aplomb. The supporting cast are all wonderful and complete an almost perfect viewing experience. If you haven't seen it yet, beg, steal or borrow a copy and enjoy a cinematic masterpiece.

The extras are wonderful and make this an essential purchase. Picture quality is fabulous, sound quality is equally good.
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